Donald Trump has been publicly praising Russian President Vladimir Putin since at least 2013, when he wondered if Putin would become "my new best friend" during the Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow. The latest example came on Thursday, when Trump took to Twitter citing Putin for support of his claim that the impeachment vote against him was "a total Witch Hunt!"
Trump has also repeatedly embraced what the U.S. intelligence community has identified as a Russian disinformation campaign, claiming the Ukraine, rather that Russia, was behind the cyber attack on the 2016 election.
The disinformation campaign claims that one of the computer servers hacked by Russia in 2016 is now in the possession of Ukraine, where it is being hidden to cover up the supposed evidence of Ukraine's interference.
In one exchange with reporters in October, Trump mentioned "the server" eight times in a span of 24 seconds.
"I still ask the FBI, 'Where is the server?' How come the FBI never got the server from the DNC?" Trump said at that time. "Where is the server? I want to see the server. Let's see what's on the server."
But according to an intelligence community source who spoke on Saturday to NBC News reporter Ken Dilanian, Trump's full-throated advocacy of the Russian disinformation campaign must delight Putin."It's not only surprising but shocking that an American president is embracing the authoritarian Russian leader the way Trump has," Dilanian told MSNBC interviewer Ayman Mohyeldin on Sunday evening. Dilanian, as seen in the video above, went on to say that according to a U.S. intelligence source, Putin must consider not only Trump's embrace of him personally, but of the Ukraine election interference narrative, "the most successful covert operation in Russia's history."
The Russian connection to the Ukraine election conspiracy theory was revealed during testimony in the impeachment inquiry by Fiona Hill, a former National Security Council Russia expert who is also co-author of the 2012 biography, Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin. Hill even admonished Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee for pushing the Russian falsehoods about Ukraine, according to The New York Times.
"I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests," Hill told the committee members.
In his MSNBC interview on Sunday, Dilanian said that at the time Hill made the revelation, the Russia link was still classified. But the day after Hill's testimony, media reports revealed that intelligence officials had already informed U.S. Senators that the Ukraine narrative was created by Russia's security services, as a way of deflecting blame from Russia and onto Ukraine for the 2016 election interference operation, according to a CNN report.